Traditionally, South Central, Los Angeles has been the designated set for cultural classic films and TV series dating back to the ’90s. Prior to director John Singleton’s 1991 film Boyz n the Hood and F. Gary Gray’s 1995 film Friday, there was an ’80s version of the lionized city that compelled a story. The culturally revered Singleton, who died in 2019, took the initiative in recounting the tale as one of his last projects and presented viewers with a time capsule set to rummage from the very first episode of Snowfall.
According to the 1985–1990 file of the Drug Enforcement Administration, “as early as 1981, reports of crack appeared in Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston, and in the Caribbean.” Snowfall paints a picture of the communal paralysis that resulted from crack’s appearance in LA. The crime drama aired on the FX network for the first time on July 5, 2017, and dropped viewers smack-dab on June 14, 1983, listening to Ronnie Hudson’s “West Coast Poplock.” There had been other crime drama series surrounding drugs before this show—think Power (2014), Top Boy (2011), and Breaking Bad (2008). However, Snowfall dials heavily on the ugly like no other series, making it the anomaly of the genre.
The show retells the start of the gritty crack epidemic that took place in Los Angeles during the early 1980s, following the oxymoronic straight-edge street entrepreneur Franklin (Damson Idris), who grows into a criminal juggernaut by Season 5. He’s joined in his enterprise by his best friend Leon (Isaiah John), the Manny to his Tony Montana, Aunt Louie (Angela Lewis), his uncle Jerome Saint (Amin Joseph), and, as of late and against all her beliefs, his mother Cissy (Michael Hyatt). Together, they have been navigating the ebb and flow of the crack cocaine epidemic.
Whether you’ve binged the series during a holiday break from work, watched the episodes weekly, or never seen the series a day in your life, you’ve seen the memes and you unwillingly made the connection. Snowfall, though entertaining, serves as a history book for the culture, and while the illustrious cast of principally Black actors made a splash on TV, the memes have been making the rounds offscreen on social media and beyond. The show has also inspired podcasts and conversations that surpass TV and further cemented it into pop culture.
In that form, Snowfall has made a mark with this sort of engagement. With the sixth and final season of FX’s jewel debuting on Feb. 22, the impact on pop culture is sure to pick up the threads. Let’s rewind to some of the best cultural contributions Snowfall has delivered so far in its first five seasons.
“Teach Ya Mans How To Squabble”
“Bodies, Bodies, Bodies”
This fan-favorite from Season 3, Episode 9, “Blackout,” ushered a cultural feast. The scene sees the Lacoste Polo and beeper–wearing Franklin riding as passenger next to his second-in-command, Leon, as the latter pulls the car over. During this curbside colloquy, Franklin hands Leon his ass and pop culture hasn’t been the same since.
In the scene, Franklin crisply says, “I built this shit. Me! BRICK BY BRICK. And I’ll be damned if I let you tear it down just because you don’t like the way another nigga talk.” And it went viral. This hashtag stormed social media platforms like Twitter and TikTok. The scene was renamed in a caption on the Snowfall’s Instagram page of 299K followers as “Big Brick Energy.”
The series from which the line descended inspired an entire album from rapper Skyzoo. “The Brooklyn-bred artist has built a career on high-level rap rooted in perspective, conceptual creativity, and wit. On his latest project, he teamed up with the production group The Other Guys to rap from the POV of the fictional Franklin Saint, a store clerk–turned-kingpin in Snowfall,” Vulture reported. The album Mind of a Saint was released in January, and the eighth track “Brick by Brick” unfastens with the notorious scene.